MORE than 1,000 people have backed a Malmesbury trader’s plan to open a pizza restaurant in the town centre.

Stewart Shape, who also has the Wild Food Company says he is receiving between 30 and 50 letters a day from people supporting the application for the former French Grey shop on the corner of the high street.

“It shows how much the town has taken this to its heart,” he told the Standard.

It is Mr Shape’s second attempt to open a restaurant in the high street. He pulled out of a scheme to transform a long-closed off licence last year after meeting a series of objections.

But he is campaigning hard for this change of use application to be given permission by Wiltshire Council.

“Malmesbury High Street is dying,” he explained. “It has to have an injection of high quality business to keep it alive. I know that directly because I have had a high quality deli there for the last seven years, and have witnessed the town’s slow demise away from retail, which is irreversible due to the on-line onslaught.”

Mr Shape feels so strongly about the high street’s future that he gave evidence last month in support of the neighbourhood plan at the appeal by housing developer Gleeson to build 180 homes on the edge of the town.

“Out of town shopping centres, vile soul less urban developments, and town centre shops closing, has created a huge void in the social network of towns,” he stated. “It is restaurants and eating places that provide the desperately needed social hub - one that's not a pub - where families can enjoy good value, high quality, sustainable food, in an intelligent ambiance. That is what is wanted.”

The application has attracted some objections, including one from the residents association which has asked for more information on how noise and smells will be dealt with.